The 10th-annual World Indigenous Business Forum kicked off this week with a reception at the Bill Reid Gallery in downtown Vancouver.
With more than 700 delegates from across the globe the event is expected to infuse close to $5 million into the local economy.
Chairman Andrew Carrier says the forum is a chance to support Indigenous entrepreneurs in other parts of the world.
“What is really exciting is the opportunity do international business,” says Carrier.
One of those in attendance was Darren Godwell – he works with a multi-national company based in Australia, but operates in various countries focusing on overseas aid and development.
“For a company with global operations like we do connecting with Indigenous businesses is really a key part,” says Godwell.
“Being able to sit down with Indigenous brothers and sisters from around the world in one location is invaluable, really.”
Another entrepreneur at the event was Alfred Lea from Manitoba’s Pauingassi (Pine Dock) First Nation in Manitoba, who owns a company called Tomahawk Chips founded in 2015.
Lea has found a way to incorporate Indigenous artwork with every bag of chips he sells.
“We have headquarters in Riverton, Man., and the plant is in Mississauga, Ont. I have another facility in Madera, Cal., and one in Prairie, Fla., and I do the chips internationally.”
Numerous speakers and panels were featured including one on Indigenous tourism and how it can be applied worldwide.
“Indigenous tourism is not always about economics at the community level,” says Teresa Ryder from the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada.
“There are several other benefits that it brings back … that are spin-off benefits.”
Carrier offers some advice for those interested in getting into business.
“Look at opportunities and don’t limit yourself to what the government has to offer,” she says.
“You have to find a niche to serve your community, but don’t be afraid to ask questions as to what is needed in that community.”